The College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. is warning patients to get tested for potential exposure to serious blood-borne viruses after shutting down an illegal dental practice run by a man with no known training in dentistry.
Health officials say Tung Sheng Wu — also known as David Wu — was practising dentistry illegally in the bedroom of his Burnaby, B.C., home with dental equipment that may not have been cleaned or sterilized properly.
"Because Mr. Wu was not a licensed dentist and because he was not following the infection control procedures expected of a licensed dentist, we believe there is sufficient risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses to recommend testing for all clients," said Michelle Murti, medical health officer for the Fraser Health Authority.
The Fraser Health Authority is recommending Wu's patients be tested for hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The college was first alerted to Wu when a woman came forward with complaints after receiving treatment from him.
An investigation revealed Wu was not a registered dentist, and the college hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance at his home on Southwood Street in Burnaby.
When the investigation provided evidence Wu was practising dentistry illegally, the college sought a court order to gather evidence to obtain an injunction to stop him and to confiscate any dental equipment and supplies.
College investigators and RCMP officers entered Wu's residence on May 29 and found a dental office in a bedroom along with 1,500 client files.
According to the files, Wu's clients came from as far as Washington state and were as young as four and as old as 86. One-third of his patients were under the age of 18.
He allegedly relied on word-of-mouth referrals, specifically within the Chinese-Canadian community.
"There were always cars with people going in and going out all the time, and they would always park and wait in the front of the house, so we wondered what was going on," said Wu's neighbour, Alison Helewka.
"It was always Chinese people," she added.
Wu is believed to have been practising as far back as the 1990s. Prior to the Burnaby location, he operated out of a residence on Ravine Drive in Port Moody, B.C.
Underground dentistry on the cheap
People without insurance or the money to afford professional dental work could be attracted to underground dentists like Wu, said Jerome Marburg, CEO of the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C.
"Most dentistry is not covered by public health funding. It's private insurance. Some people may not have the money. Some may not want to pay the money," he said.
A recent investigation into bogus dentists in Toronto showed their prices vary, but were significantly cheaper than those licensed dentists charge.
A root canal was found to cost $250 instead of $900, a filling cost $40 instead of $300 and a crown cost $175 compared with $900.
Although 80 per cent of British Columbians have a regular dentist, only 63 per cent have dental insurance, said Jocelyn Johnston, executive director at the B.C. Dental Association.
"In some cases, it might even be a language barrier. They're comfortable to discuss in their own language, someone from their country who culturally understands them [and] some of their concerns," Johnston said.
It's not yet known if any criminal charges are pending.
Members of the public are reminded they can use an online directory on the College of Dental Surgeons of B.C. website to check that their dentist is registered to practise in the province.
Fraser Health is asking that anyone who has ever received treatment from Wu to contact a public health nurse through a toll-free hotline at 1-855-895-7425.